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How We Work at SoftMedia Artisans, Inc.

Our company offers a complete range of services, including hosting, for customers who want a high-quality presence on the Web.

At SoftMedia Artisans, Inc. we conduct our work in an organized, predictible way. This permits us to produce top quality work while meeting our schedule commitments. Here we tell a little about how we approach the work we do in each of our three main business categories: building a Web site, conducting a usability audit, and writing a technical article.

Building a Web Site

Screenshot: KeweenawNow.com.On the Web, as in life, first impressions can be very important. If a visitor to your Web site finds it easy to use, helpful, and fast, he or she adds your site to the Favorites list and returns often. If not, the visitor likely never returns. Therefore we work hard to ensure that the Web sites we build work well for the intended visitors from day one.

Professional Design

Our experienced Web designers work closely with you to make certain that the site we design meets your organization's goals and the goals of your intended visitors. Because of our expertise in Web usability, we avoid the design errors that can make a Web site confusing and difficult for visitors.

We design all Web sites to be usable by visitors with impaired vision. This includes visitors who change browser settings to increase font sizes and those who use special browsers that convert Web page content to audible speech.

Studies show that most visitors find a new Web site through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, and AltaVista. We design Web sites to encourage prominent listings in major search engines.

Fast-Loading Graphics

Slow Web pages result primarily from the downloading of large image files. Our designers know how to reduce the size of image files while still creating an attractive Web site. We use this knowledge (and other tricks of the trade) to make sure that the Web pages we design load as quickly as possible.

Multiple Language Support

Screenshot: German Language VB Snippets.People from all over the world will visit your Web site. You can expand your audience tremendously by communicating with your visitors in their own languages. Although SoftMedia Artisans, Inc. does not provide translating services, we design Web sites to support the display of each visitor's preferred language. If your Web site has no translation available for the visitor's preferred language, its display defaults to English.

Immediate Content Updates

Screenshot: Database diagram.For Web pages that require frequent changes in content, we provide the capability for updating those pages so that the new content appears immediately. The person doing the updating does not need to know HTML or any technical aspects of your Web site. The updates go into a database and the Web page rebuilds itself from the database upon the next request for it.

We can also provide the capability for a non-technical person to add new pages of a predefined type to the Web site.

Air-Tight Security

Many Web sites need to restrict portions of their content. When required, we design Web sites to limit the restricted pages to authenticated visitors who are authorized to access them. For financial and other sensitive transactions, we make use of ultra-powerful encryption technologies to safeguard the information exchanged over the Internet.

State-of-the-Art Technology

Although our Web designs can be implemented using any existing technology, SoftMedia Artisans, Inc. now uses state-of-the-art ASP.NET technology for the Web sites that we develop in-house. The power of this new technology—which our company tested for well over a year—permits us to develop and maintain Web sites of the highest quality at much lower costs to our customers.

Using the ASP.NET technology also allows us to build Web sites that, in Web lingo, scale well. That means that their performance doesn't suffer when more and more Web surfers visit your site.

Complete Hosting Services

If we design and build your Web site, we will offer to host it at very competitive rates. You can, of course, select another host or host the Web site on your organization's servers.

Web Site Maintenance

SoftMedia Artisans, Inc. stands behind our work, and will make sure that your Web site works as agreed. In our proposal to you, we'll include a very reasonable rate for performing on-going maintenance work such as adding new kinds of Web pages and increasing functionality.

Auditing a Web Site for Usability

Page snippet: persona and scenario for usability audit.A usability audit of your Web site—either live or under development—identifies specific improvements that you can make to help your Web site meet the goals of your organization. At SoftMedia Artisans, Inc., we begin our usability audit by learning from you the specific goals you want your Web site to achieve and the visitors you want to attract. At the conclusion of our usability audit, we provide you with a complete report, with these three sections:

  • Management Summary
    Most customers like to know the bottom line of a report before delving into supporting details. This section outlines the methods used and summarizes our findings for the two parts of our audit: customer usability and heuristics.
  • Customer Usability Analysis
    The customer usability analysis determines how well your Web site meets the needs of your site's visitors. This section identifies both the features that work well and should be retained and the features that could be improved. For the latter, we offer very specific recommendations, not generalities.
  • Heuristics Analysis
    Our heuristics analysis tests your Web site against more than 100 predefined usability heuristics. These heuristics provide a comprehensive list of Web site design guidelines that can be used to aid in the design of usable Web sites and to evaluate the usability of existing Web sites. This section of the report provides a detailed explanation of how your Web site stacks up against each heuristic.

Analyzing Customer Usability

Screenshot: Usability test scenario.The first part of our usability audit focuses on how well your Web site satisfies the needs of the visitors you wish to attract. Here we stand in for your potential visitors by following these well-defined steps:

  1. Develop Personas
    Based on the visitors you want to attract to your Web site, we invent several people (or personas) in much greater detail than you might expect.
  2. Develop Scenarios
    We create a detailed step-by-step scenario for each persona to follow to, first, locate your Web site and, then, to use your site to meet his or her own particular objectives.
  3. Select Personas to Test
    In this step, we select a subset of the personas such that if their objectives are met, the objectives of the other (untested) personas will also be met.
  4. Test the Scenarios for the Selected Personas
    Here we follow the step-by-step scenario for each of the selected personas, keeping careful notes concerning all usability issues.
  5. Document the Results
    Finally, we list all usability issues encountered and recommend solutions. For example:

    "Add a link to the Privacy Statement page to allow a user to return directly to the New User Registration page (without the loss of any data entered)."

In our usability audit report, we include the personas and scenarios developed. We support our specific recommendations with the actual results of our scenario tests.

Testing Against Usability Heuristics

The second part of our usability audit focuses on detailed heuristics that describe the best practices for creating a usable Web site. We organize our 100+ usability heuristics into these 10 categories:

  • Typesetting: providing easy to read fonts and text formatting
  • Comprehension: writing for understanding
  • Visibility: making information easy to see
  • Visualization: using graphics to help visualize information
  • Forms and Commands: clarifying human-computer interactions
  • Animation: offering usable animation
  • Navigation: assisting with movement throughout the site
  • Internet Issues: addressing unique-to-the-Internet usability issues
  • Writing Style: writing for reading on the Web
  • Reach: making the site easy to find

Each heuristic is specific, objective, and testable. During our analysis, we test each of your Web pages against every heuristic. Our report provides a detailed definition of each heuristic, and lists the steps to take, if any, to satisfy the requirements of the heuristic.

Writing a Technical Article

Screenshot: Article on DevX.com.SoftMedia Artisans, Inc. can provide well written, state-of-the-art information for your readers in the subject areas of Web development, software usability, and ASP.NET development. When hired to write a technical article or review, we organize the work required into these three roles:

  • Author
    The author, who receives the byline for the piece, organizes the piece and drafts its content. Within our company, we select the author based on expertise in the particular subject area to be covered.
  • Researcher
    The researcher locates information and examples needed by the author. If the piece uses code examples, the researcher tests them to verify their accuracy.
  • Reviewer
    The reviewer reads the piece before submission, suggesting edits and modifications to the author. The reviewer also makes certain that the piece satisfies the formatting and other submission requirements specified by the publisher.

Depending upon our workload and the deadline for submission, two or more of us may perform a particular role. On other occasions, either the author or the reviewer may double as the researcher.

Doing a Job Well

Regardless of the job you hire us to perform, SoftMedia Artisans, Inc. commits the company to producing high-quality products on schedule. If you contact us, we'd be pleased to submit a proposal for the work you need, whether it be a complete Web site, teaming with your organization's developers, auditing the usability of your Web site, or writing an article or review for your publication.

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